Ongoing safety threats call campus security into question

Students and staff speak out on how safe they feel from outside threats while on campus.
ON GUARD Campus aide Jorge Arroyo supervises the front courtyard of the main building.
ON GUARD Campus aide Jorge Arroyo supervises the front courtyard of the main building.

School shootings are nothing new in the United States. Last year alone, the country experienced 153 shootings across its elementary, middle and high schools. While this number is a decline from 2022’s 240 school shootings, it still represents a disturbing increase.

Though it has never faced an actual shooting, the school has had its fair share of close calls. On Dec. 7, 2022, two teens were stabbed outside of the school on Cedros Avenue. 

A couple months later, police arrived at the scene after there was a report of an armed student on campus. This student was later found to be in possession of a toy gun. 

In spite of these events, however, senior Nathan Perez believes that, on a daily basis, the school provides adequate security to all of its students and staff. During school hours, counselors are given posts to supervise students from while deans are allowed to roam around. 

“The school has helped us a lot security wise,” Perez said. “The deans and the counselors are around protecting us during nutrition and lunchtime and supervising the area properly.”

In addition, he feels that the school has done fairly well with handling extreme situations in the past. But he also questions whether the school has enough security on hand to deal with more extreme situations.

“They told everybody that day, ‘Quickly, we’re on lockdown, move into a class, there’s a gun threat,’” Perez said, recalling that day. “They rallied us up real quick in a safe and orderly manner. But I also think about whether they would be able to handle it in a situation like that quickly enough to control an actual gunman.”

Campus aide Carlos Araujo was one of the people helping students into classrooms on the day of the toy gun incident. He pointed out that his role as an aide is severely limited in curtailing violent situations. Aides like him can physically step in between a threat, but cannot touch them. However, if a student is acting suspiciously, aides can take the student in for questioning by the dean.

“There was a fight a couple of days back,” Araujo said. “We weren’t really sure what to do, because we had one side telling us we had to separate the students, but then on the other hand, there’s people telling us we can’t touch the students. So in situations like that, what do I do? You don’t want to get into any legal trouble.”

Araujo also noted that it’s not impossible for someone to breach the campus’s perimeter without anyone knowing. Even though the most populated areas on campus are patrolled frequently, there are not enough aides to cover the entire campus

“Because this is a bigger campus, there’s a lot of ways to get in and out of this place without anyone knowing,” Araujo said. “Anywhere where there’s a fence and it’s patrolled less, it’s easy access.”

Math teacher Mr. Colin Rabago noted that teachers have received specific training on what to do in case of a lockdown. Teachers are supposed to make sure all students find cover indoors and instruct them to stay away from all windows and doors. They are instructed to use tables and chairs to block off potential entrances to their rooms. If the situation escalates, teachers can relocate students as well. Additionally, teachers have smartphone group chats to communicate with each other in case of an emergency.

“We had a couple of trainings last year in person by LAPD officers, given to teachers about what to do in these kinds of situations, and then we also have virtual trainings on these situations when you’re training to be a teacher, too,” Mr. Rabago said.

Nevertheless, all three believe that having a stronger school police presence on campus would increase everyone’s safety. The school has had numerous police officers patrolling the school after incidents like the toy gun threat; currently, however, only a single officer is sporadically sent once or twice a week to keep an eye on the campus. A more permanent posting is imperative.

“You need to have a police officer on campus,” Mr. Rabago said. “It would make families feel more safe.”

More comprehensive training for staff, a stronger perimeter and increased efforts to build a secure school environment are ways to help create safety for everyone on campus. Because financial resources are limited and vary from district to district, however, the best solution might be to raise more awareness about how prevalent school shootings have become in America. 

“School shootings happen every day,” Araujo said. “Every day, there’s a shooting that you don’t even know about. There’s probably a shooting right now. It’s a little bit too normalized, and one could happen at any time.”

The abridged version of this article appeared in the Fall 2023 print edition. This is an uncut version.

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Daimler Koch, Online Editor-in-Chief
As the Executive Editor-in-Chief of my own weekly satirical newsletter, I’m always striving to improve my writing skills in all forms. During my first year of Journalism, I was an Arts and Entertainment staff writer and later the editor of the Opinion section. Now, I’m the Online Editor-in-Chief for the Mirror. Outside of school, I’m always either reading, pretending to be four different people for my newsletter, or preparing for my next martial arts belt test. After I graduate high school, I will go to college and study to become an English professor.
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